Is the last remaining major communist state on the verge of knocking the United States off its pedestal as SOLE global super power? Is China destined to be THE central story of the 21st Century?
Journey with the Giant, a new and boldly unprecedented documentary film by James Isaiah Gabbe and the CITIZENARTS team, focuses on these and other critical questions about China that have become central to U.S. political discourse and have profound implications for the world. Traveling as a tourist, Gabbe presents an intimate, unvarnished exploration of the land about which Napoleon may have said: “There lies a sleeping giant. Let it sleep, for when it awakes, it will shake the world.”
CITIZENARTS filmed in nearly 20 locations, from the commercial fever of Hong Kong and Shanghai to top-of-the world mysteries of Tibet and into Tiananmen Square, ruling center of the People’s Republic. Journey with the Giant enters the daily life of factory workers, teachers, merchants, tourists, clerics and the like, showing the extraordinary scope of change in that vast country and revealing how the Chinese feel about their frenetic new world and the communist party’s leadership.
“We wanted to get beyond the usual media focus on topics like human rights, fast trains and trade imbalances,” said Gabbe. “I felt our absorption with those matters limits understanding of how China could, in the very near future, have an economy that dwarfs those of Great Britain, India, Japan and Russia – combined. That in 40 years could be double that of the United States.”
Gabbe got the idea for the documentary after an eye-opening business trip to mainland China in 2010. “I was stunned by my misconceptions,” he said. “It’d seemed implausible that a Third World communist state with a record of blight and turmoil could challenge America and its ideals of democracy and a free market economy. When I returned to the U.S. and suggested China might be a threat to Pax Americana, I was often met with disbelief or scoffing denial – even anger. In other words, with the same kinds of biases I’d had before my trip.”
Gabbe decided he would try to do what had not been done before: create a concise, objective and comprehensive film that helps to explain why China has begun shaking the world.
Nearly a year of intense Email exchanges followed with his potential Chinese colleagues. “While it was never stated overtly, they were skeptical that we’d see China with open eyes and would end up producing what they viewed as the sensational and negative reporting that dominated Western coverage of their country,” Gabbe said. “I understood they had a lot at stake in following the rules. I kept affirming that education, not sensationalism, was our goal.
“Each day in mainland China, as relationships were formed and trust was gained, we were able to film in schools, hospitals, commercial and industrial sites, fast trains, planes and on and on. In fact, we ended up having access to places that could have been off limits in the U.S. Our guides vigorously protected us – and therefore themselves – from stumbling into situations that would be over the line – such as military and other security matters. And they carefully explained our mission.”
Gabbe cites two telling experiences. One was in an industrial site in the mammoth inland city of Chongqing: “We’d walked through the gates and were approached by a management-looking fellow. Our guide explained what we were up to, and I began apologizing. ‘Why are you worried?’ was the response. ‘This is a free country. Take your pictures. I hope they help Americans to understand us better.’ The other was in Tiananmen Square. Heavily armed soldiers and police were everywhere – and they were monitoring us closely. We’d been shooting for over an hour, when a policeman came over. Our guide interceded – and with utmost cordiality the cop suggested it was time to move on.”